Service Dogs and Public Places

Many public places are afraid to question somebody with a dog for fear of a discrimination complaint andthe bad press that usually follows.

As a result, we see many people in the stores, restaurants and shopping malls with dogs that we know cannot be service dogs.

It has become so problematic with people bringing their animals to public places that the Florida Legislature recently amended Florida Law making it a crime to misrepresent that your dog is a Service Dog.

Florida Statute Section 413.08(9) was amended July 1, 2015, to state that a person who misrepresents having a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.



Erum Kistemaker Named President of VFAWL Board

Kistemaker Business Law Group is pleased to announce managing partner and attorney Erum Kistemaker has been

installed as president of the Volusia Flagler Association for Women Lawyers (VFAWL) board of directors.

“It is an honor to continue serving on the VFAWL board as board president for 2017-18,” said Kistemaker. “I am excited for the year ahead and all it has to in store for our organization.”

The installation, which was conducted by Volusia County Court Judge Belle B. Schumann, took place at the June 8 VFAWL’s Woman of the Year luncheon at the Halifax River Yacht Club in Daytona Beach.

VFAWL will also be presenting its Woman of the Year Award to Kelly Chanfrau a

nd its Distinguished Service Award to Kathie Selover.

The full slate of new VFAWL officers and board members installed at the luncheon are:

  • Erum Kristemaker, president
  • Ali Hansen, president elect
  • Judge Kathryn Weston, treasurer
  • Rachel Ebert, secretary
  • Courtney Hayes, communications director
  • Director: Allison McCabe, director
  • Director: Erica Johnson, director
  • Director: Sarah Fogle, director
  • Director: Cynthia Lane, director

The Volusia Flagler Association for Women Lawyers is a chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers (FAWL).  FAWL was formed on June 30, 1951. A Constitution and bylaws were adopted on June 7, 1952.  In 1980, the membership voted to amend the bylaws to provide for local chapters of the association.

Earlier this year, Kistemaker was named to FAWL’s Fast Track subcommittee, works to vet endorsement requests of bills filed, or to be filed, in the Florida Legislature by individuals or organizations other than FAWL, or other initiatives, rules, or positions directly impacting FAWL’s mission.

VFAWL was formed on March 21, 1995 with mission to promote the advancement of women in the legal profession, expand the leadership role of its members in the community at large, further the common interest of its members and to encourage camaraderie among its members and other professional women in Volusia and Flagler Counties.

VFAWL holds a luncheon on the second Thursday of each month at Halifax River Yacht Club.  In addition, VFAWL has regular social events and community service opportunities.

US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Student with Service Dog

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Michigan student with cerebral palsy whose Goldendoodle named Wonder was banned from her classroom by Jackson County school officials.

Wonder was helping Ehlena Fry with a number of tasks at school. Her family says the school broke ADA rules by denying Ehlena her independence at school and discriminated against her in a public place.

The ACLU says the family’s victory could impact students with disabilities across the country.

After the court ruled, the Fry family attorney said, “This victory will, once and for all, remove unfair legal hurdles for victims of discrimination across the country that prevent students from seeking justice guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, of course, we are delighted for Ehlena and the entire Fry family, who fought for as long as they did because they wanted to make sure that other children with disabilities wouldn’t have to endure the discrimination that Ehlena faced.”

Florida Bar Files ‘Military Spouse Rule’ Request with Florida Supreme Court

Under current law, lawyers married to members of the military stationed in Florida are required to take the Florida bar exam in order to practice during their temporary stay here.

However, the Florida Bar has recently filed a request with the Florida Supreme Court to change this law.

Twenty-three other states have passed a ‘military spouse rule.’ This would apply to lawyers who are spouses of active military personnel stationed in Florida and would be considered only during the time of his or her military service in the state.

This would not only demonstrate the state’s support of our active military members but make a huge difference in the lives of those stationed here.


December Offers Another Important Holiday – Bill of Rights Day

bill-of-rights-dayDecember isn’t just about the traditional holiday season — it also marks an important time in American history.

December 15th marked the anniversary of the date in 1791 on which the Bill of Rights were ratified, and we think “Bill of Rights Day” should be celebrated now just as Independence Day is.

The first two amendments are the easiest ones to remember, covering speech, religion, assembly, a well-regulated militia and bearing arms.

Since the Bill of Rights was ratified, 16 more amendments have been added, including those granting freedom, citizenship and suffrage to blacks and women.

As a reminder, here they are. This version of the text is from the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution:


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.


In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.


In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.


Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.


The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.



November 4th is Love Your Lawyer Day

love-your-lawyer-dayToday is Love Your Lawyer Day!

The day was launched 15 years ago by Fort Lauderdale lawyer Nader Anise, who specializes in legal marketing.

He’s made it his mission to bring respect to the legal profession through his nonprofit group, American Lawyers Public Image Association. Click here to read more!


The Olympics and Athletes’ Tattoos

olympic tattooThe Olympic Rings as a tattoo has been quite visible this Olympics, which got us thinking about copyright and branding laws.
After some research we discovered that the Olympics have strict rules and guidelines about brand identification, which extends to tattoos.
Similar to the Paralympics, bearing a tattoo will not automatically disqualify a participant from all events: if such a tattoo violates rules about branding or placement, it just must be covered.
For instance, some athletes in the Paralympics have been disqualified for bearing their Olympic tattoos. One swimmer was specifically disqualified for not covering his Olympic Ring tattoo located on his chest.

Lawyers Can Now be Fined for Calling Women “Honey” or “Sweetheart” in U.S. Courts

no sweetheartsDarlings, dears, sweethearts and honeys are no longer allowed in the courtroom.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has amended its professional code of conduct to bar lawyers from addressing women with sexist remarks, in the courtroom. The amendment was put to vote on Aug. 9, in response to a petition by female lawyers who complained of being routinely undermined during trials, with demeaning terms like “honey,” or “darling”. Similar anti-harassment policies are in place in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

This is the first time that the 138-year-old organization has taken an official position on professionally inappropriate language. Its ban will apply nationwide, to its 400,000 members across the United States. Punishment for lawyers who use offensive language—ranging from small fines to suspension—will be determined by state bar associations.

The offense has been defined by the ABA as any “harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice against others,” reports the New York Times. Opponents of the resolution have argued that limiting a lawyer’s speech in trial could stymie their ability to aggressively defend their clients.

In January, a judge in California fined lawyer Peter Bertling $250 after he tried to fluster the opposing counsel with sexist remarks. “A sexist remark is not just a professional discourtesy, although that in itself is regrettable and all too common,” said judge Paul S. Grewal of the federal district court of San Jose. “The bigger issue is that comments like Bertling’s reflect and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of our profession.”

Approximately 70% of female attorneys surveyed by the Defense Research Institute reported experiencing gender bias in the courtroom, according to a 2015 ABA research report.

[Blog source:]


Court Finds Text Message Can Form Binding Contract

lolIn the world of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, it is no secret that individuals are communicating regularly on their smartphones about their business affairs. Recently, a court addressed the question about whether a text message can constitute a writing sufficient under the Statute of Frauds to create an enforceable contract.

In St. John’s Holdings, LLC v. Two Electronics, LLC, the Massachusetts’ Land Court concluded (in what appears to be a case of first impression) that a string of text messages can constitute a writing under the Statute of Frauds sufficient to bind the parties to sell certain property.

The transaction involved numerous discussions and emails, including four drafts of a letter of intent from Buyer to Seller for purchase of a piece of property.  None of the drafts of the letter were signed by Buyer. Ultimately, Seller’s agent texted Buyer’s agent, asking him to sign the letter and provide a deposit.  About two hours later, after Buyer signed the letter and provided a deposit, Buyer’s agent sent the following text to Seller’s agent:

Tim, I have the signed LOI and check it is 424[pm] where can I meet you?

The two agents met later that day to deliver and accept the letter and deposit.  When the Buyer’s agent asked for a copy of the Seller’s executed documents, Seller’s agent sent the following text:

[Seller] was out of town today.  He will get back to us tomorrow.

Here’s the problem: the Seller accepted a third party’s offer to purchase the property at the same time, and refused to execute and deliver the letter of intent from the original Buyer.

The general rule in most states is that contracts for the sale of land are enforceable only if they are supported by writing that includes the essential terms and is signed by the party against whom whom enforcement is sought.   This is called the Statute of Frauds.  Thus, the questions in St. John’s Holdings were: (a) whether a text message can be a writing under the Statute of Frauds; (b) whether the alleged writing contains sufficiently complete terms and an intention to be bound by those terms; (c) whether the text message is signed; and (d) whether there is an offer and acceptance.

The court concluded that the text message from Seller’s agent was a writing that, read in the context of the email exchanges between the parties, contained sufficient terms to state a binding contract between Seller and Buyer.  In addition, the court found that the final text message contained a valid electronic signature to be “signed” within the meaning of the law.

Although this case deals with the purchase of real property, which is subject to the Statute of Frauds, there are many lessons for the modern construction project.

First, we live in a mobile, technology-driven environment.  Even the judge’s opinion reads like a primer on technology: “E-mails facilitate rapid, almost instantaneous communication, but in many cases they analogize more closely to telephone calls, or at least to voice mail messages, shot back and forth between parties whose chief goal is prompt response….”  The judge also noted that “e-mails reveal that the parties are really just ‘talking’ with the help of the internet, and not sitting down across a virtual table to electronically ‘write up’ a memorandum of any contractual significance.”

Second, claims succeed or fail based upon the documentation.  Whether you are talking about the formation of a contract, the validity of a change order, or the supporting evidence for a delay claim, the documents are key to either winning or losing.  Your claim is a story, and it must be told based upon the contemporaneous records on the project.

Third, you must harness digital data. More and more litigation and arbitration involve discovery of texts, emails and photographs for proving or defending a claim.  You should have a written policy that addresses the use of cell phones and tablets with an eye for document preservation.  Are change orders being discussed by text?  What about photos of an accident?  And did you think about use of personal email accounts by your project members?  All of these issues need to be addressed.

Kistemaker Business Law Group Attends ‘Ins and Outs of Community Association Law’ Conference

ins outsThis month, Kistemaker Business Law Group attended the ‘Ins and Outs of Community Association Law’ educational conference in Tampa.

The intermediate level course was hosted by the Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee and the Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section.

Erum Kistemaker, managing partner and attorney, and Ellie Kellie, associate attorney, from Kistemaker Business Law Group attended the event. The firm is active in the Florida Bar’s condo committee, the condo and planned development committee which is part of the real property section of the Florida Bar.

The lectures throughout the course covered topics including electronic voting, mixed use community leadership, COA/HOA legislative updates, and case law updates.

“This was an exciting ellie ins outsopportunity for Kistemaker Business Law Group to continue developing our expertise in the areas of condo and homeowners association law,” said Kistemaker. “We learned a great deal from the talented presenters throughout the conference and look forward to applying this knowledge to the firm’s legal cases and educational seminars.”

The mission of the Florida Bar’s Continuing Legal Education Committee is to assist the members of The Florida Bar in their continuing legal education and to facilitate the production and delivery of quality CLE programs and publications for the benefit of Bar members in coordination with the Sections, Committees and Staff of The Florida Bar and others who participate in the CLE process.


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